A Message for Our Leaders on the Eve of the Inauguration: A Heart of Wisdom
Scripture I Kings 3: 5, 7-12
At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”
And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore a heart of wisdom to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.
Reflection “A Heart of Wisdom”
Give me an understanding mind – give me a heart of wisdom: After the campaign is over, the name calling, self-congratulation, and the tweeting ceases, there comes a moment in the political realm, when a person who seeks to be a leader must look at the mirror of his or her life and realize how unprepared he or she is for the task of national leadership. The job is always larger than our abilities; piloting a great country requires more than celebrity status, and the ability to make deals counts for little. A national leader must prepare to make hard life and death decisions, and that is more than most mortals can handle. Every choice will help and every choice will hurt, indirectly deciding who lives and who dies, whether by domestic or foreign policy decision. There is no avoiding it, and as leader you are responsible.
Even the best of presidents and political leaders makes mistakes; and surely the Congress and our 45th president will make mistakes. But, what we pray for is a heart of wisdom that takes them beyond themselves, beyond profit and self-interest, to care for the least of these and treat the vulnerable with great compassion. As we pray for all leaders, we pray that the new president’s heart will be broken, his spirit humbled, that he might have a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone.
Alfred North Whitehead asserts that the heart of spirituality involves moving from individual self-interest, to community interest, to world loyalty and that is our prayer for our leaders – that they go beyond their own ideology and politics to do what is best – for the planet, for the defense of the nation, for the protection of the poorest and most vulnerable, and for the well-being of future generations.
Solomon’s wish was for an understanding mind – a heart of wisdom – and that is our own prayer, that we have wise hearts, and that our 45th president and our national leaders pray for that same wisdom, regardless of the political consequences.
Today, in a deeply divided nation, when the next president was the second choice of most America voters, we must look for common ground even with those who oppose our policies: the issues are too large – health, ecology, graceful aging, the gap between wealth and poverty, race, religion, and national security – for any leader or group to go alone. Humility, cooperation, partnership, these are the virtues needed in our time.
May we find common ground, may we have a heart of wisdom.
Bruce Epperly is the Pastor of South Congregational Church, UCC, in Centerville, Massachusetts. He is the author of 40 books, including “Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians,” “The Gospel According to Winnie the Pooh,” and “Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God.”